“We made a lot of mistakes with this building,” admits Rafael Viñoly. It is not everyday that you will hear an architect admit to making a mistake with their work, but Vinoly hardly had a choice with this one. In a recent interview with The Guardian’s architecture critic, Oliver Wainright, Viñoly fessed up to the fact that he made a lot of mistakes with his 37-story building in London’s financial district dubbed the Walkie Talkie. The building has a specific concave shape that channels the sun’s rays into a concentrated beam onto the neighboring area, Eastcheap, melting car parts, starting fires and cracking pavers.
Viñoly said he sensed that this may be a problem during the early stages of design but was unable to confirm it or to know how severe it would be because he didn’t have the right tools at his disposal. “When it was spotted on a second design iteration, we judged the temperature was going to be about 36 degrees. But it’s turned out to be more like 72 degrees,” he confessed.
But Viñoly didn’t take all the blame for the hot mess his building created. He said that climate change may have played a hand in the matter. “When I first came to London years ago, it wasn’t like this,” he said. “Now you have all these sunny days. So you should blame this thing on global warming too, right?” He also blamed the building process in London for putting him out of touch with how his building would really turn out. “One problem that happens in this town is the super-abundance of consultancies and sub-consultancies that dilute the responsibility of the designer,” he said, “to the point that you just don’t know where you are any more.”
“They are calling it the ‘death ray’, because if you go there you might die. It is phenomenal, this thing,” says a bewildered Viñoly. Unbelievably, this isn’t the first time the architect has managed to create a death ray with his building. His Vdara hotel in Las Vegas, with a similarly concave form, focused sunlight onto the pool terrace in 2010, and was hot enough to melt lounge chairs and singe guest’s hair. But Viñoly played off his tendency for making dangerous buildings saying, “That was a completely different problem. We pointed out that it would be an issue too, but who cares if you fry somebody in Las Vegas, right?”